With almost 8 billion people living on the planet, and so many of those living in urban environments, it has become increasingly necessary to implement a myriad of technologies into the very cities we inhabit. By using current and new cutting-edge technologies, we have been able to create hyperconnected sprawls of data that function much like a machine would, these are smart cities
Whilst we increasingly interact with the world through the digital space, it’s easy to forget that in the modern era, that digital space is interacting with us. Whether it’s a city’s automated traffic-reporting system managing congestion, a range of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors reporting road accidents in real-time, or even responsive IoT-sensor street lights that change their power outputs by detecting pedestrian and road traffic levels, thereby saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.
The application of technologies in smart cities is broader than one might think; in cities such as Baltimore and Boston, they have deployed “smart trashcans” that are able to analyse the contents of the trash and optimize collection routes based on the data gathered.
Ultimately, smart city technologies have one goal in common, efficiency. Streamlining and improving upon almost every process required to keep a city running more sustainably than ever. Reducing time costs, lowering resource waste and overall, improving the health and wellbeing of the entire ecosystem and its inhabitants.
Whilst IoT is probably the most popular smarty city technology, thanks to its unbelievable scope of application, cost-effectiveness, and ease of implementation, there are several other transformative technologies that are also beginning to shape city life. To name just a few, blockchain, Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) are also being explored and implemented into the cities of the future.
There are certain regions of the world that are clamouring for this tech more than others; though these technologies are indeed nascent, places like Dubai, South Korea and even Helsinki have become hotbeds for smart city development.
In recent years Dubai has become one of the fastest developing cities in the world and is aiming to become a hub for financial technology (FinTech), as well as fostering the growth of disruptive technologies as part of Dubai’s ‘Smart City Initiative’.
In the Smart Dubai project, the city is tapping AI, blockchain and Big Data to drive the nation’s economy, governance systems, banking infrastructure and much more, all the while making the city eco-friendly by becoming entirely paperless.
Dubai even launched its very own blockchain platform with IBM, giving government entities the ease of developing use cases without needing to acquire or invest in singular solutions or infrastructures. For Dubai, their goal is to also leverage blockchain to make the city the first in the world to conduct 100 percent of all applicable transactions over blockchain in 2020.
An example of AI in action in utilities comes from the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA); in 2014 DEWA had finalized the smart transformation of all of its services, not even a year after the Smart Dubai initiative was launched. In 2017, DEWA began embracing AI technologies, and as per their roadmap, DEWA intends to make Dubai the first city to provide AI-based electricity and water services. Further expansion into their services will include the deployment of AI and machine learning to augment customer experience, optimise core grid operations and so on.
South Korea, for Society.
Seoul is often considered to be a world-class smart city; presently Seoul is pioneering many aspects of smart cities with a particular focus on improving the fluidity and functionality of society overall. Their ambitions appear to be the improvement of citizen life, this includes improving public transportation facilities, traffic management, economic issues, and environmental challenges.
Seoul is also an active promoter of these technologies, as, for example, the city has been exporting smart city solutions to other cities, such as their IoT-integrated streetlights and smart garbage processing systems. Seoul is also looking to further its IoT strategy with the installation of 50,000 IoT sensors, allowing for “city life data” such as pollution levels, noise, UV rays, floating population rates and much more to be collected, analysed, and addressed.
In terms of being one of the most cutting-edge cities on the planet, Seoul is fortunate to be situated in South Korea, which is reportedly the first country to commercialize 5G networks, allowing for residents to gain access to free WiFi anywhere as part of the nation’s bid to become a completely “free data city” by 2022.
South Korea is investing big into disruptive technologies, year after year the nation has pumped millions into the development of future technologies to further their vision. Most recently, the Ministry of Science and ICT, as well as the Ministry of Information and Communication Promotion, announced the launch of a project titled “Blockchain Technology Validation Support in 2020”.
As per the report, the project is to select nine projects and offer each one a grant of up to USD 360,000. Accordingly, each project is required to offer services and products that can boost economic and social value with blockchain technology. Park Yoon-kyu, the Minister of ICT, noted that this plan is to support specialized domestic firms and grow them rapidly during “...the early stage of the blockchain market.”
These few examples barely scratch the surface of just how deep the smart city rabbit hole goes. In New York, buildings are being developed that reuse rainwater, and Barcelona has introduced an IoT-sensor monitored irrigation system. Technologies, big and small, are being leveraged to create a world that responds to us, so we can respond back accordingly.
Most recently, Helsinki revealed a digital transformation project aimed at creating a society in which city employees and residents live in a world that “best capitalizes” digitization. The intended result is to build a digital foundation upon which the city has its very own network that would comprise solutions for administration, cybersecurity and surveillance. Furthermore, Helsinki is looking to establish new services in line with its plans for cloud computing, services and applications, with special regards to scalability, quality of service and costs.
Again, the above examples are just small and exciting instances of smart cities in action; the future is looking extremely bright and in terms of catalyzing technological advancement, the development of smart cities will be fostering heaps of exciting innovations that will transform our everyday lives if they aren’t already.